Thursday, July 03, 2008

Up, Down, and All Around

So yes, I'm back from my vacation over the pond and have had several days to recover. My stress levels peaked about 24 hours before departure (which is pretty typical for me, really) and by the time I left I was in full-on "oh well fuck it, if I forgot something then the hell with it" mode. So naturally, I forgot my toothbrush. The one thing you really, REALLY want to have on the plane after 12 hours in transit. Pleh.

As to where I went, Charles, it's almost a question of where didn't I went? I got into London early morning on Sunday and fumbled my way from Gatwick to Charleton; I was visiting my friend L., who needed to be at work in North Wales Monday-Tuesday. So Sunday we went to Leeds and then returned to watch Dr. Who with her husband, J. Then up to Wales for 2 days, during which she worked like a stevedore and I pottered around looking at castles (Beaumaris and Caernarfon) and the scenery around Snowdon. Then Wednesday it was down to the south of England--L. is originally from Sussex, so we meandered down there to visit her mom, went to Arundel Castle Thursday, back up to London Friday for some sightseeing and beer drinkin'. Then away back home again. L. was an utter trooper the entire week and figured out the morass of travelling by rail in Britain. It used to be so easy! When I was there 10 years ago, on my stopover en route to Kenya, I bopped around on cheap day returns out of London without external assistance for nearly a week; it was so easy an American could do it. But now the system's privatized, the different rail systems don't all play well with one another, and "cheap" is no longer an operative word. A particularly egregious moment--to get from Worthing to London/Charleton via London Bridge, I got a ticket for £19.50. Over at the next window, L. requested a ticket from Worthing to London Bridge, since she had a commuter travel card that would allow her to go London Bridge to Charleton. Her ticket was £22. Luckily she overheard my transaction before the sale was completed: "Wait, I'm going 4 stops fewer than she is, and her ticket is £2.50 less???" The cashier squinted at his screen for a few minutes, tapped at some keys, and then said, sheepishly, "Yes." "Right, one ticket for Charleton, please."

Overall it was a fantastic time. The weather was great, I took hundreds of photos of castles and ruins and L.'s garden; although a day did not go by where I did not spend at least an hour on a train of some description, even that was a blast and I couldn't have asked for better.